Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate as it’s also known, is a major health problem impacting around 2.4 million Australian men.
Although it isn’t cancerous, the enlargement of the prostate naturally occurs as men get older and makes it one of the most common urological diseases for men. The condition can make it difficult for men to urinate, for them to empty their bladder, or can simply cause them to urinate frequently. This can cause an array of problems, with 68 per cent of sufferers reporting a significant impact on their quality life as a result of BPH.
One person who knows all about the impacts an enlarged prostate can have on life is Wollongong man Peter Tornaros. Speaking to Starts at 60, Peter explained that he began noticing toilet troubles gradually over time and went to a GP for help.
“He actually put me on Flomaxtra [a medication used to treat symptomatic BGH] for five years to try and ease it and make it easier to urinate,” Peter said. “That worked a little bit, but I was never quite finished [going to the toilet]. There was always something there. It was just ongoing.”
While medication helped at first, Peter’s problem got worse as the years went on and it was costing him $50 a month. Sadly, Flomaxtra wasn’t available on the PBS and many over-60s who take the drug have to fork out the cost of the drug themselves.
Peter’s condition began to deteriorate and eventually, he was going to the bathroom four times a night – causing serious problems for his health and his wife.
“She’s a light sleeper so she wasn’t getting much sleep and neither was I,” he recalled. “You sort of weren’t emptying properly and that was the frustration.”
Fed up, Peter eventually went back to the doctor for help. Around 570,000 men in Australia to see a GP for their BPH symptoms. Men can either be prescribed medication, treatment, or can simply watch and wait. The third option isn’t recommended as waiting can cause permanent bladder damage. Medication is often the first solution but as was the case for Peter, it was only temporary.
While some men undergo laser surgery, Peter opted for a UroLift – a minimally-invasive procedure. Permanent implants lift and hold the enlarged prostate tissue in place so it doesn’t block the urethra. Unlike other options, it doesn’t require cutting the prostate or heat to remove prostate tissue and doesn’t cause side effects such as sexual dysfunction.
After undergoing the procedure, Peter began noticing improvements almost instantly. Despite taking medication for a spasm caused because his bladder was still functioning according to his blocked urethra, he didn’t notice any other side effects. In fact, he said his life “turned around” after treatment.
“I don’t get up during the night anymore,” he said. “I sleep peacefully.”
It has also done wonders for his sex life.
“Sexually, it’s just a plus plus plus,” he said. “My sex drive is back to what it used to be and there’s no drawbacks that I can see in it.”
Despite initially being embarrassed to talk to his GP about his bladder problems, Peter said it’s important that men realise help is available and to seek treatment sooner rather than later.
“You need to address the constant peeing,” he warned. “It sneaks up on you. It’s not something that’s blatantly obvious today or tomorrow. Have that addressed.”
Men experiencing symptoms should discuss the matter with a GP or health professional to talk about the best option for them.